Hi everyone – it’s been far too long since I wrote a travel update, so here’s what’s been going on in our world.
We spent the latter part of 2015 retracing our steps south through California. We stopped in Cloverdale in NorCal wine country (one of our favorite places), Temecula in SoCal wine country, plus a visit to O’Neal Regional Park in Orange County before we put the RV in storage and headed to Atlanta for the holidays.
During this time we both had pretty good balance – we were eating healthy foods and exercising more, while still drinking some good beers and eating out here and there. My work was in a good place, and Kat had the opportunity to go into her office for a couple weeks to take care of some much needed business. Things were good.
Then a little grey tiger-striped kitty changed everything. If you follow us on Facebook you’ve already met Lexi, our travel kitty, and I’ll share the full story of how we found her here.
Lexi the Travel Kitty
Our story begins at ‘Wilderness Lakes’ RV Campground just north of Temecula, CA.
It was a cool evening in October and we were sitting outside our RV enjoying a beer and chatting. As we sat we heard what sounded like a baby crying – or rather the sound of a baby kitten meowing – from a couple campsites over. We walked toward the crying, but couldn’t find the kitten. We were a little concerned for the kitten as it was supposed to drop into the low 30’s that night.
The next night, we heard the kitten meowing again, and this time we saw an adult male cat with a little gray striped furball kitty underneath our neighbor’s RV.
I grabbed some tuna, and put it in a bowl and set it out. Of course the adult male gobbled all the tuna and didn’t share with the kitten. Silly me – I grabbed another can and another bowl, and put some tuna out for the very hungry kitten as well.
The kitten ate more than half a can of tuna before the adult male had finished his – at which point he took the rest of hers as well. It was pretty clear he was her father – but also clear that he was a survivor, and he was going to make sure that he was well-fed.
We grabbed a third can, and fed both cats more until they were both finally full.
During this time, I inched closer and closer to the kitten while she was eating. At first she wouldn’t let me get too close – but after a while I was able to scratch her ears and pat her. She was still a little skittish, but tuna is a powerful influencer.
She wouldn’t come inside the RV, and she wouldn’t really let us hold her – at least not without a struggle – so we went in for the night. We figured she’d be ok, as she appeared to be at least 3 months old and had been living in the campground the entire time.
She chose us
The next day we woke up and went outside with our coffee. As we sat and chatted, we again heard the sound of the kitten meowing – but this time, it seemed to be coming from our RV. I walked to the cab, and with my ear near the hood realized the sound was coming from our RVs engine compartment.
I popped the hood and there was little Lexi cat looking for breakfast. She spent the night in our engine bay to stay warm – and probably figured this was a good place to get another meal too (good guess).
Over the next few days, we fell into a little pattern. When we stepped outside in the morning, Lexi would emerge from her hiding spot in our RV looking for breakfast. While we drank coffee, she would play at our feet, and she’d chase after birds (she was tiny – no threat), and when she got tired she’d curl up in a little fluffy ball in one of our laps.
We were slipping.
We knew she had a warm enough place to sleep at night, but with the cold temps I started thinking about inviting her indoors. Yes, I knew what that meant – not an easy decision, but again, we’re both cat people and she was starting to feel like a good fit for our little family.
[box_left]Yes, we checked around to see if someone lost their cat – and yes, we went to the front and asked the office as well. We were told to report her to animal control – and we both knew that was almost 100% fatal for little Lexi. We weren’t going to do that![/box_left]The biggest obstacle to the adoption of our little stray friend, was our upcoming drive to Atlanta.
We had decided – perhaps foolishly – to drive our tow car (Honda Fit) to Atlanta for the holidays. Our decision was motivated by gas prices (very low) vs. flight prices (very high), and because we planned to stay for longer than normal, and having your own car is better and cheaper than renting one.
Of course cats are not known for their road tripping prowess.
We knew that taking a new kitty on a road trip was a risk. There was a good chance she’d meow like crazy or go nuts, but at this point we couldn’t see leaving her in the campground.
We took the plunge
We brought her to the vet and got her dewormed, plus all her vaccines and a full checkup. Lexi was healthy and in great shape – so from there we bought a litter box, some toys, cat dishes, and all the standard kitty accessories.
We told the vet about our upcoming drive to Atlanta, and the vet gave us some ‘kitty chill pills’ with instructions to feed her 1/2 a pill every 12 hours.
The Drive to Atlanta
We put the RV in short-term storage, and set out on our 3 day drive to Atlanta. For the first hour Lexi howled in her carrier. We didn’t really know what to do.
Finally we let her free to wander around the car. This worked better, except for when she wanted to explore the drive-side footwell. Mostly she sat in Kathy’s lap – or explored the back of the car.
After moving around our bags, we found that what she really wanted was a perch that gave her maximum visibility. We stacked some bags in the middle of the back seat and placed her bed on top – and from then on Lexi spent 80% of her time in her perch, either happy or asleep.
We awoke early on the second day of our trip just west of Albuquerque in the little town of Grants, NM. As it was December, and as Grants is at nearly 6,500 feet elevation, it was rather cold and there was snow and ice on the ground.
As we went to load the car I very foolishly made the point to Kathy that “it’s so cold out, Lexi won’t even go outside” and stood there with the door open.
Anyone who’s ever owned a cat knows what happened next. Lexi was out the door in a flash! We were on the second floor, so fortunately Lexi couldn’t just bolt. She had the upstairs balcony and steps to deal with.
She ran quickly down the 2nd level, looking over the side for somewhere to escape. I figured I’d grab her at the end of the walkway.
As we approached the end, Lexi could see that I was going to catch her. She suddenly squeezed herself under the railing and leaped off the balcony onto the pavement below – and then bolted toward a large dumpster and a frozen car wash.
I ran back to the room to get Kathy and my coat (big mistake) and in so doing lost sight of Lexi. Kathy freaked out (of course), and we both headed downstairs to look for our little kitten.
In the meantime, Lexi had disappeared.
Our motel was situated against an access road on one side, another motel on another side, the car wash in the back, and open space with a Walmart and a Denny’s on the 4th side. Beyond the car wash was another access road, and then miles of scrub wilderness full of rabbit holes.
It was also in the mid 20s, gray, and cold.
We circled the area asking everyone we saw if they’d seen a small gray cat. Unfortunately no-one had seen her and there was no sign of her.
It was now after 8am, and other people were packing their cars and heading out. It occurred to me that Lexi was accustomed to hiding in car engine compartments to stay warm. If she hid and someone left, we’d never find her. We both started to panic.
But we didn’t give up. We searched all day. My phone records my steps and it says I walked more than 20 miles that day looking for Lexi – and Kathy walked just as many.
We searched under the dumpster. We searched the car wash. We checked with the maids, both at our motel and the one next door. We searched under Trucks at Wal-Mart.
We explored the frozen open space which turned out to contain a homeless encampment. They hadn’t seen our kitten either.
Finally we went to Denny’s and ate some food. I reasoned that Lexi might come out in the evening as she’d be hungry. I hoped that I’d be right.
At around 7:30pm we armed ourselves with cat toys, treats, and tuna. I went one way around the motel, and Kathy went the other. As I saw Kathy around the building, I could see that she was leaning over under a bush. I approached cautiously – and there was little Lexi cat under the bush!
We coaxed her with food and got her back in our room. The very nice people at Travelodge Grants both helped us look for Lexi, and also gave us a second night for their absolute lowest rate while we looked. We really appreciated their help!
On to Atlanta
We were both relieved to find Lexi, and we vowed to be more careful with her going forward. The rest of our journey to Atlanta was uneventful (for the most part), and we spent a wonderful holiday in the city with family.
During that time, Lexi got to know Kermit, the big orange Mainecoon. After a few initial conflicts, they became very close friends.
It was with mixed emotion that we took Lexi away from her friend Kermit and back to California. While she was fine during most of the drive, she cried every night at every motel we stayed at. We didn’t get much sleep, but we also understood her pain. She’d made a friend, and then lost him again – unfortunately it couldn’t be helped.
Back in California
Once we got back to California, we bounced around from Menifee and Temecula area, to Orange County for a couple weeks, out to Tucson for filming (a story for another time), and then back to Descanso California.
Lexi has grown very comfortable in the RV, and we’ve set up perches at every window so she can ‘make the rounds’. We also take her outside in her pet kennel, so she can see and smell the birds and squirrels up close while we drink our morning coffee.
Lexi enjoys this to a point, but would enjoy it more if we could summon birds and squirrels on demand. People out walking their dogs are also a point of fascination – as are cars – but squirrels and birds are her favorite.
Of course we don’t want her to get out and to kill things, and more importantly we don’t want her to get killed herself, so for now, Lexi is an indoor cat. She hasn’t 100% made peace with this of course – she is a cat, after all, but we’ll continue to work on her and spoil her in the meantime.
I’m writing this from Idyllwild, California – a charming mountain town above Palm Springs. Lexi is content, curled up in a ball in her perch in the driver seat, and spring rain is falling on the roof (yay for California rain!).
I’d say both Kathy and I are thrilled to have taken on our new travel companion, as she makes our RV feel many times cozier than it did before. Taking care of Lexi has admittedly cut into our time – and kittens take up more time than adult cats, but I think we’d both say it’s been worth it.
We’ll continue to feature Lexi the Travel Kitty here and there going forward, and we’ll pay attention to things like – RVing with a Pet, RVing with a Cat in particular, How to keep them happy, How to Travel with them, etc..
Until then, Happy Trekking!